Vivian and I have been enjoying what for us has been a rare treat in the past several years. We have been in Wisconsin to welcome the early spring. Our time here has again reminded me of one of the great life lessons from living in this particular corner of the world. It is a lesson that must have, as a prerequisite, a cold and dark winter, for it is out of this darkness that the message emerges.
The winters in Wisconsin are ones in which nature is in a deep dormancy. We might even say that it is a winter in which all has appeared to have died. A walk through the woods in the winter is one of stillness. There are very few signs of active life. Of course winter has its own unique beauties, but the point that I wish to make here is that there is more about winter that speaks of death than there is that speaks of life. The trees are not growing, and many have even dropped whatever green signs of life that they once had. There are no new little plants emerging from the forest floor. Even many of the animals have entered into hibernation, which one could call a semi-death.
But then spring arrives! The trees, which once looked completely dead, begin to show a swelling on the tips of their branches as they begin to pump life back into their nascent leaf buds. The bears and other animals that once appeared to be lying dead in their dens, gradually begin to stir and rouse themselves. Then soon, everywhere you look you see life. New little plants are emerging out of what was lifeless soil, many of them so eager to grow that they do not even wait for the snow to be completely melted. All that was dead has again come to life!
Those of us who are from Wisconsin understand the difficulties of living in an area that has such a deep winter, but sometimes I think that there are relatively few of us who have appreciated the great lesson that comes from watching life spring out of death. Certainly we are all glad to see spring arrive. No longer do we have to bundle ourselves with many layers of clothing and plow our way through the snow to get out of our driveways. No longer do we continually have to throw wood into our furnaces or pay the heating oil man. Warm weather has arrived and we are excited to enjoy the fine summer months.
But we must not be so wrapped up in our playing in the sun that we miss the great lesson that we have just experienced. Life has emerged from death. It is one of the great themes of the Bible. If we would take time to notice, nature itself, as God’s creation, also gives us a lesson on this subject.
“Unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains alone; but if it dies, it bears much fruit.” This is how Jesus explained to His disciples concerning the lesson of life coming from death (John 12:24). He was preparing them for His own death, which, without this lesson, would have appeared to be a defeat. However, understanding this principle of life emerging from death teaches us that death may instead be the means to abundant life.
All life is ultimately connected with Jesus. He also said, “He who hears My word and believes in Him who sent Me has eternal life, and does not come into judgment, but has passed out of death into life” (John 5:24).
Notice that Jesus did not say that this eternal life is something that will happen some day in the future when our physical bodies die, but if our confidence and hope of living is in Him, we have already passed out of death and into life. As Jesus had said, His death has brought about much fruit.
Although there are many more aspects to the teachings of Jesus and the apostles concerning life that emerges from death, the very first lesson is found in these words of Jesus: “I came that they might have life, and have it abundantly” (John 10:10).